FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh has given a cautious welcome to the news that F1 in the UK will be partly on Pay TV and partly on terrestrial as SKY will share the coverage with BBC.
Whitmarsh has long maintained his position that Free to Air is the model the teams wan and he seems to be trying to force Ecclestone into a position where the BBC will show entire race deferred on Free to Air TV, a few hours later.
The financial package is also clearly attractive enough to teams, who share 50% of all the sport’s commercial revenues.
I’ve written about this extensively over the last few years and regular readers will know that I’ve been forecasting for years that something like this would happen, as it has been the model in Japan and Finland for some years now. In Japan the arrangement generates £240 million a year, with 2 million subscribers each paying £12 a month.
I’ve learned that this BBC/SKY deal came together very quickly and in the last few days. It was looking as though BBC might give up everything and at one stage Channel 4 was looking like it might share a deal like this with SKY. It seems that the SKY part of it has been on the cards for a while.
“From what Bernie has said it’s better than expected,” Whitmarsh told reporters after his meeting with the commercial rights holder this afternoon.
“The BBC will show every grand prix in full, half of them live and half of them deferred, so free-to-air is available to everyone.
“Sky sound like they are really going to commit to it as well, so it sounds like there is a little bit of competition between the BBC and Sky. So overall, from Bernie’s view, it will increase the total viewership within the UK. Bernie assured me, and I asked him several times, the deferred coverage will not be highlights, it will be a full race.
“That, to some fans, will be very important, depending on exactly what races they are, so hopefully that means it’s a good deal for everyone.”
“Based upon that, if it increases the total viewership, and it maintains the ability of free to air for all of the viewing public in the UK, then cautiously it’s good news isn’t it?”
Whitmarsh had questioned how the new deal would work under the Concorde Agreement which stipulates that in key markets F1 must not be solely on Pay TV.
This is a bold move, but one which has been coming for a long time and now many other countries are likely to follow suit, with France likely to be one of the first.
In Germany RTL is financially very robust and earns well from F1 so it is likely to hold onto the exclusively free to air model for some time.